Red River War
(1874-1875) - A military campaign launched by the U.S. Army in 1874, the
objective was to remove the
Indian tribes from the
Southern Plains and force their relocation to
Indian Territory. The campaign began in June, 1874, after
numerous attacks on settlers by the Southern Plains Indians. However, these
attacks were spawned by the government’s default of its obligations under the
1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge.
treaty called for two reservations to be set aside in Indian Territory --one for
the Comanche and Kiowa and one for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho. It also
provided for training, housing, food and supplies, including guns and ammunition
for hunting. In exchange, the Indians agreed to stop their attacks and raids
upon white settlers.
Though the reservations were established, the other provisions fell far short of
what the tribes were told to expect. Food and supplies were consistently limited
or failed entirely and commercial
buffalo hunters ignored the terms of the
treaty as they moved into the area promised to the Southern Plains Indians
began to slaughter the beasts by the thousands.
and profiteers, also
trespassing on the land given over to the tribes, stole cattle from the Indians
and trafficked in illegal guns and liquor. Though the Quaker Missionaries, who
had been established as Federal
Agents, tried repeatedly to get the
government to address these issues, they received no cooperation from the Office
Affairs in Washington or from the military. As conditions continued to
worsen many of the Indians
on the reservations began to leave, joining up with
renegade bands who had returned to the
Without sufficient rations and their mainstay -- the
buffalo, being wiped out by
hunters, the tribes were in a desperate situation. A Comanche medicine man named Isa-tai called for a Sun Dance in the spring of 1874, even though the ritual had
never been part of the Comanche tradition. At the gathering, Isa-tai foretold
a victory to the warriors who participated in a battle to rid the buffalo
Chief Quanah Parker, then formed a plan to attack the buffalo hunters and after recruiting a number of warriors, they headed to
Texas Panhandle with a plan to destroy the settlement at Adobe Walls. Known
Second Battle of Adobe Walls, a combined force of some 700
Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Arapaho warriors, led by Chief Quanah Parker and Isa-tai, attacked the
buffalo camp early in the morning of June 27, 1874. Though the post held
only 28 men, including
Old West characters,
Bat Masterson and Billy Dixon, Isa-tai's prophecy proved to be an illusion.
Despite being dramatically outnumbered, the hunters’ superior
weapons repelled the Indian assault. After four days of continuous battle, about 100 men arrived
to reinforce the post and the Indians soon retreated. While estimates vary as to the losses, as many as 70
Indians were killed and many others, including Parker, were wounded.
Adobe Walls was not only a crushing spiritual defeat for the
Indians, it also led to the Red River War of 1874-75 that would eventually
end in the final relocation of the Southern Plains Indians to reservations.
After the battle, the U.S. Army quickly made plans to subdue the Southern Plains
tribes permanently. Within no time, thousands of troops were sent to the Texas
Panhandle, encircling the region where the Indian
bands were situated. The plan
called for the troops to maintain a continuous offensive against the tribes, and
as many as 20 engagements between the U.S. Army and the Southern Plains Indians
took place over the next year in the Texas
Panhandle region, Indian Territory, and southern
Wearing down the
Indians, who were constantly on the run, the well-equipped Army
cornered many of them in the
Battle of Palo Duro Canyon on September 28, 1874.
still at large fought in numerous small skirmishes throughout the autumn and
winter of 1874-75. However, the dedicated army were replenished with more
soldiers from Fort Sill,
continued to surrender until the last holdouts, Quanah Parker and his warriors, surrendered to at
Fort Sill, Indian Territory,
on June 2, 1875.
On that day, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie at the head of the Fourth U.S. Cavalry
attacked and destroyed a large Indian encampment in
Palo Duro Canyon. Mackenzie’s scouts followed the Indian trail to the edge of
Palo Duro Canyon, before the
soldiers descended the steep slopes to the valley floor 700 feet below.
Taken by surprise, the Indians abandoned their villages, allowing Mackenzie to capture more than
1,100 horses that were later slaughtered to prevent recapture. Although few
Indians or soldiers were killed, the unrelenting pursuit of the troopers and the cold
weather ultimately led to the end of the Indian
resistance. The warriors,
without horses and short of supplies, began drifting back to their reservations.
of America, updated August, 2017.